Partners Fear Potential Service, Installation Disruptions As Verizon Workers Strike

Verizon partners are bracing themselves for any potential fallout from the largest strike the carrier has experienced in recent years.

Some 36,000 Verizon workers across the East Coast walked off the job Wednesday after the telecom giant failed to reach a new agreement with its unionized employees, whose contracts expired more than eight months ago.

The strike includes employees in the carrier's wireline division -- its landline voice, high-speed Internet and television services -- as well as workers from its wireless business unit. Employees are striking in Verizon's service areas in the Northeast, including Massachusetts, Rhode Island and regions from southern New York to Virginia that serve residential and small-business customers.

[Related: Frontier Makes Bad First Impression On Former Verizon Users]

Sponsored post

The strike has implications for Verizon's partners in these areas that had installations planned, according to one East Coast-based Verizon partner who asked not to be identified.

"It has a huge impact," said the solution provider. "It really does impact new installations most significantly. Any new orders in the queue could be affected since repairs typically take precedence over an install during a strike."

The solution provider does have Verizon installations in the pipeline that could now be postponed.

"We will be looking closely at these requests and communicating with our clients if there is any indication that their time frames won't be met, but it's important not to assume that everything will be impacted because of the work stoppage. You have to look at this case by case and as new information comes out," the solution provider said.

The strike comes after Basking Ridge, N.J.-based Verizon and two labor unions representing both its wireline and wireless operations missed the 6 a.m. deadline Wednesday for new contracts to be agreed upon.

Verizon has brought in and trained nonunion "replacement" workers in anticipation of the strike. The carrier said it will be able to maintain services for customers during this time.

"We've put a number of processes in place to make sure that our partners and customers see little to no impact from the [strike]. Over the past year, we invested a lot of time to train thousands of nonunion Verizon employees in various network and customer service functions, including Fios, copper repair and network maintenance. That team has been deployed now that the strike is in effect," a spokesperson for Verizon told CRN.

The carrier said that its first priority during the strike is to maintain its existing customer base by keeping up with customer service, making repairs and surveilling its network.

"Our focus through all of this is to make sure we continue to serve our customers, and help our partners serve their customers. We are in close contact with our partners throughout this [strike]," the Verizon spokesperson said.

The strike comes one day after Boston Mayor Martin Walsh unveiled a partnership between Verizon and the city of Boston to replace existing copper-based infrastructure with the carrier's fiber-based Fios network across the city for residents and small-business customers.

Press representatives for the city of Boston did not respond to CRN's request for comment regarding how the strike could impact the Boston buildout.

Verizon's last strike, which occurred in 2011 and lasted for about two weeks, didn't impact services as much as partners initially assumed it would, the solution provider said.

"Two weeks can seem like two years sometimes because technology is so important … but Verizon has a plan in place to support its services as best as they can while they negotiate with unions," the solution provider said.

In the meantime, the solution provider will continue to communicate with its customer base. "We will share any status updates and set the right expectations, given what the impact of the strike could be. There are a lot of unknowns because you can't predict when the strike will end."

DataXoom, a Verizon partner focused on mobility management and wireless plans for midmarket and enterprise customers, partners with the carrier for its wireless services only and expects business as usual, said Rob Chamberlin, co-founder and chief revenue officer for Berkeley, Calif.-based DataXoom.

The vast majority -- 99 percent -- of the workers involved in the strike are from the carrier's wireline business. But since 1 percent of the striking workers represent the wireless division of Verizon, the small group has the right to picket outside Verizon Wireless retail stores.

"My guess is that picketers will demonstrate in front of some company-owned retail stores nationally to maximize the union's visibility and to potentially impact revenue at key retail locations. [But] this might actually enhance business at some of Verizon's retail partner locations, at least in the near term," he said.